The Art Party
Two blue robin eggs were lying on the ground. Both were broken, a smear of bright red filled the openings. For some reason they reminded me of my dream, the dream I had a few weeks before. I was running through dark woods, running hard and scared. I could hear the yammering of wolves behind me. I ran on and on through the night, but the wolves came closer and closer. I could hear them crash through the underbrush behind me. I saw a pale light, a clearing. I ran toward the light, entered the clearing and heard a voice above me, Bathe in the mud and they wont be able to hurt you. I looked up and there were women on the branches in the trees. I looked around me and saw a damp spot on the ground. Jump in, the woman on the lowest branch said. I put my foot on the spot and my toes felt no bottom. The wolves were closer; I could see their eyes, sparkling amber in this gray landscape. I jumped into the spot and sank until just my head remained above the clearings surface. The wolves rushed in and darted about howling, snarling here and there. Finally they left and the woman in the lowest branch laughed. Youre safe now. Once youve bathed in the mud they will never harm you. The women looked kindly down on me and I woke up.
I wondered what had happened to the robins, what had made the eggs fall. I wiped my palms on my pants, picked up my contraption, and continued my way to the party.
Mark had invited me. Its an art party, he said.
I looked at him.
An art party. Everyone is to bring something. He smiled. You know?
I shook my head.
Nothing static. Mark laughed, Or maybe static instead of capital A art. Art should be something made in the moment, something like a song rather than a dull, flat painting. We are going to do things with music. And a girl will let us drag her through paint on pieces of paper. Whatever you want to do, bring it along.
So Id come up with my contraption and found myself carrying it halfway across town to Marks. Mark had two roommates, Jim and Bill. Plus there was a girl who hung out with them. Nearly all my classmates had something to say about her, mostly not nice.
I made it to Marks and someone had strung blue and white Christmas lights on the porch. I lugged my contraption to the front door and knocked. Jenny opened it, smiled and drew me in. Flickering candles which gave a pale golden light covered a table. People were talking, moving about. Marks is a small place, some bedrooms, kitchen, and living room. He was sitting on the floor with Jim and Bill and they were using sticks to drum on blocks of wood. They were mostly in shadow. Come on in, Jenny said. Wine is in the kitchen. She shut the door. Find a spot to set up your dohickey, wander around. Julia came up with a glass of wine, stood between us facing Jenny and said something. Jenny laughed and they both ambled off.
I set up my contraption facing a wall. I wiped my palms against my jeans and walked towards the kitchen. Summer was near and evenings were warmer. The hallway was dark except for a red light down at the end; the kitchen to the right was bright by contrast. A few candles on the table in old Chianti bottles (in spite of the electric light), coffee cups over by the sink, glasses and some pretty good wine it looked like. Some people were in a corner near the rear porch door, a few more were outside in the back yard. I poured myself a jelly glass full of wine, took a sip. Turned around. Someone had taped up large sheets of paper on the wall. Some coffee cans with paint and brushes were on the floor.
I returned to the living room. Stood near Mark and his buddies busy banging away. I saw a light flash across us and looked up. A woman walked by. I had a quick vision of a good profile, silver flashes and lights pointing every which way. She stopped, knelt by Jim, placing one hand on his shoulder, her other hand put a glass of wine by him. She gave him a kiss and stood up. She looked at me, smiled, and went back toward the kitchen. She was wearing flashlights taped to her arms (pointing up to the ceiling) and legs (pointing down to the floor) and what looked like pie pans. It was hard to tell. I took a sip of wine and went over to my contraption, thinking how she did light and motion better.
I placed my glass down, held the thing steady with one hand, flipped a switch and started turning the crank. I looked ahead at the wall as lights and colors flickered. I could turn the handle slowly, or faster; I could stop it and start again. I felt something, looked up and saw some people standing near watching the wall. I kept turning the crank. I heard something, looked over, the woman with the flashlights was smiling, kneeling. Are you OK for wine? I nodded. She pointed to the contraption, Thats neat. She grinned, winked, stood up and went away. I turned back to the wall. They were pie pans. Pie pans, flashlights and nothing else.
I turned the crank for a little longer, but my knees were hurting. I stopped. Reached for my wine, took a sip and looked up. Mark was standing beside me. Nice, he said. I nodded and sipped some more wine. Put the glass down, wiped my hands, stood up and undid the buttons for my shirtsleeves. Mark had knelt down and was looking at it, he stood up again, Nice. Bill will like looking at that. He held out an empty glass, Going for more wine. Have you met Chastity? I shook my head. Shes somewhere around here. He headed off to the kitchen with me following.
Someone had started to paint on the paper. Most everyone was in the living room, the kitchen was empty. Mark filled his glass. Maybe out here. I followed him to the back yard. A few people were sitting on some chairs, it was nice and quiet and dark. Mark pointed to the ground. Peter and his friends were doing things with sparklers out here earlier. The steel rods were stuck in the dirt. I have to go back in. We need my guitar. Mark turned and went back to the house. There she is, come on. I followed Mark into the kitchen, it was awfully light inside. The woman with the flashlights was pouring a glass of wine.
Chastity, this is Darcy.
She turned, smiling. Shes beautiful, I thought.
Darcy? Werent you the one with the light thing earlier? I nodded.
See you Chastity, Mark said, leaning over to kiss her cheek.
Oh, here, take this wine to Bill. She reached out the full glass. Thanks. She turned back to me.
I took a sip a wine. She wasnt wearing anything else and I was blushing.
Can you imagine anyone naming their daughter Chastity? She laughed, started to reach her hand out. Stopped.
I nodded. I like old fashioned names. I took another sip.
Your light thing was neat. Darcy is it?
Burdened also. She turned, then looked back, Would you like to sit somewhere?
I nodded and took another sip of wine.
OK then, heres some more wine for you, you look thirsty. She took an empty glass and filled it. My first and probably the last for the night.
Dont worry. Your secret is safe with me. She bent to click on the flashlights on her legs, stood up and clicked on her arms. Lead on MacDuff. She leaned close, Or we can be conspiratorial and sit outside. Her hand touched my wrist. In the dark. I nodded. Great.
We left the kitchen, stepped off the porch and went to the back of the yard. Her bare feet moved comfortably through the grass wet with dew.
Its fantastic out here. Day or night. She stopped, turned and laughed. Its OK, you know. I looked at her. How Im dressed. Dont let it bother you too much. She tapped my wrist again. A little bother is always OK. She clattered across the yard. Stopped. Theres another over there, pointing to what looked like a fancy dining room chair. Dont look, this is the embarrassing part. I heard a clatter, then a sound of a person sitting down. She laughed. Its OK. You could have looked, you know.
I sat down. Took a sip of wine. I didnt know whether to slump back or sit forward.
When I made this; she lifted a pie pan, thank god for pipe cleaners. When I made this I didnt realize how much bother it would be sitting down. She took a sip of wine. Pie pans are not the best thing to be sitting on bare assed. Besides, if I sat on them I think the whole dress would tear apart. She leaned back and patted a flashlight. Do we need these on? I looked at her. OK. She turned them off. Now its your turn. Say anything. The first thing that comes to your mind. No. Better not do that.
Perfect. It was pretty dark this far from the house. I could see the light reflect from her cheeks, the scar on one made a hollow spot, her nose, the pie plates, the chrome on the flashlight on her right arm. The wine glass had a dull red glow. I couldnt remember at all how she looked, but the image of her was there, the way her face moved when she smiled made me want to see that again and again. I could smell the wine and green things around me.
I dont know what to say.
Perfect. I dont trust men who are practiced in the art of seduction. Their compliments are too easy. Chastity took a sip of wine. Youre a friend of Marks?
We have some classes together. Not music. History. Literature.
Literature? As in?
I really like Blake.
Blake, Ive not read much of Blake. She leaned forward. Something about burning bright?
The Tyger. I dont know the words, though.
Thats OK. She smiled again. I could see the light reflected on her teeth. Why Blake?
Because he says things. Important things to me. I didnt tell her about the bed back at my room, my bedsheet Id covered with lines from Blake.
Chastity leaned down, placing her wine glass on the ground, then stood up. No, stay there. She walked toward me, then past me. Here. How does that feel?
You jumped when I touched you. Dont worry. I dont bite. Her fingers massaged my neck. Do you have any books by Blake?
Some. Her fingers were kneading my shoulders; her thumbs still pressing the back of my neck.
Bring them by sometime. Id enjoy learning more. She patted my shoulder, went back to her chair. Its OK if you peek. She lifted her pie pan dress to her waist and sat down. I couldnt see a thing in the dark; light on skin, flashing pie plates. I have a room here, my home away from home. She let her dress drop. Ill show you in a bit.
Uh, Chastity. Wheres the bathroom?
She laughed. Ah necessity, the mother of conversation. She bent over, clicked on the flashlights on her legs and picked up her wine glass, stood up and clicked on her arms. Come on, Ill show you. She took my hand and led me to the house. Your hand is cold. I guess that was a nod. Its OK, past the kitchen. Chastity led me past the kitchen, down the hall to the right. Bathrooms here. She smiled again, Ill wait outside.
When I came back out she was leaning against the walk talking to Jenny. You know Darcy? Great. My room is this way. At the end of the hall was a red light by the door. Bills idea of a joke. She nodded toward the light, opened the door and led me in. Lights on or off?
On I guess.
Probably best. Here it is. She clicked on the light, went in and sat on the bed. She clicked off her flashlights. Make yourself comfortable.
There was the bed, a table, some lamps, and paper grocery bags on the floor filled with cloth or clothes. Brightly colored stuff. Piles of books were on the table, by the bed, against the wall.
I like plays, mostly around 1600, though earlier, too. Have you ever read the Second Shepherds Play? I shook my head. Sit down, Ill find it somewhere in one of these piles. I sat down and looked at the drawings taped to the wall. They looked like they were of her.
Oh those. Davy did those. Hes good, isnt he? She went over to the pile of books by the closet. Here it is. She handed it to me. This is a translation, its a great medieval miracle play. Chastity sat down again. Still havent peeked, have you? She leaned toward me, flipping the pages of the book, Here. You dont need to read it now. You can borrow it when you leave tonight or when ever.
Of course. She leaned away. Darcy, I guess I better explain things a bit so there are no misunderstandings. No, relax, she had put her hand on my wrist again, leaving it there. Jims my sweetie, Im his girl friend. And Mark and Bill are somewhere in there, too. I find I dont have words to describe it. Anyway, if I like someone and they like me, no ones going to throw a fit. At the same time, she gave my wrist a squeeze, thats how things are, Im not leaving Jim. She drew her hand away, Isnt it amazing how complex society makes things? Anyway, here, let me show you something.
Chastity stood up and went to her closet. Did you hear about the action painting tonight? Yes, well Im the lucky girl. She quickly raised her dress, held it there for a moment and then let it fall. See, that didnt hurt, did it? We are both the same people, nothing has changed. I shook my head. Well, maybe something has, but you will see it all anyway later tonight. So. The guys think they are going to drag me, she sat down on the bed again, through the paint and stuff and thats going to be it. Chastity placed her hand on my leg and leaned close. Jenny, Julia and the other girls are going to do the same to Bill. Only he doesnt know yet. She laughed, squeezing my leg. I bet he chickens out and doesnt take his clothes off. Sheesh. She leaned away, releasing my leg. You know, Jim is going down to Mississippi this summer, working on voting rights. Were all a little nervous. He says theres nothing to worry about.
When you get a chance, talk to him about it if you feel like it. Well?
I looked at her.
Say my name again.
Perfect. She stood up. You can stay in here if you like or you can come out front with me. She made a face. As one of the hosts Im supposed to mingle. She bent down and clicked on the flashlights on her legs, then stood up and clicked on her arms. Staying? I shook my head and stood up. Great. Ill put the book on the table here. You can get it when you leave. She took my hand and gave it a squeeze. Knock first or there may be no end to embarrassment. She laughed, leaned against me. Kiss me you fool. Laughed again. It works in the movies. Maybe some other time, huh? She squeezed my hand as she led me out, Get the light. Thanks. She stopped, turned to me and kissed me. See, that wasnt so bad. Here. She pulled me close and kissed me again. I was dizzy. Thats better. Jim was at the end of the hall smiling. Time? Jim nodded. OK. Darcy, you can help me get ready. She grabbed my hand and pushed me back into the room. She shut the door, clicked on the light. Good thing. The batteries are starting to go and these are heavier than they look.
Chastity went to the closet, grabbed a folded sheet off the shelf, Modesty. She came back and stood before me. I need help getting this stuff off. She started on the tape on her left arm. You can do my legs. No. Put your glass down first. Thanks. She fiddled with her tape. No, you better work from the back, Id hate for something to fall and hit you. There. She laid a flashlight down along with a ball of tape.
I hope my legs are OK. Im no way as pretty as Julia.
Prettier, I mumbled.
A compliment! Thanks, but Im not. She got her other flashlight off and put it beside the first. The dress is coming off. Take a deep breath. There. That wasnt so bad, was it? Chastity laughed and reached back to tousle my hair. You better move back to my front. Here. Her fingers held my head a moment, Ill sit down first. She sat down and bent over to work on the flashlight on her right leg. You can do this one. I nodded and kneeled to her left leg that she stretched before her.
Julia is exceptionally beautiful, but I find blond a bit over done. There, youre getting it. Chastity laughed. What do you call that thing you made, that does stuff with lights?
Contraption I guess.
Nothing romantic like Xerxes or Konstanze? Have you heard of her? No? She is this woman Chopin fell in love with. Mark was telling me how he went for weeks and weeks without talking to her in order not to destroy the ideal he had made of her. He was only nineteen and didnt know any better. Anyway, she fell in love with someone else. Figures, doesnt it? The flashlight was finally off her left leg. Thanks. She stood up. You, too, Darcy. I looked at her. Come on up here, she laughed and raised me up. You wouldnt want to give a girl the impression you were only interested in one thing, would you? She kissed me again. You can hug me, quickly. She pressed herself against me, kissed me, then pushed away. See, it isnt that hard. She reached for the sheet. My debut as a paintbrush awaits. She spun around, stopped, opened the sheet and draped it over herself. OK. We both will take deep breaths. One, two, three. She smiled at me. I dont think you expected to spend the evening having a naked human paintbrush talk your head off, did you? She went to the door, Im nervous, but here goes. She went out, I got the light and followed. Oh, my wine. I went back in and got both of ours. Thanks.
She took my hand and led me down the hall.
Burn brightly, I told her.
Chastity looked at me, smiled, placed her hand up to my cheek, her fingers moving down my earlobe. She turned away and went into the living room.
She looked just like the woman in my dream, the one on the lowest branch who told me to jump in.